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an excerpt from “Waiting”

An Excerpt from "Waiting"


I am usually early for appointments, meetings, and gatherings. And then I have to wait. What is the appropriate time to ring the bell or sit down at the restaurant table? Often I am so early that I have to walk around the block a few times before I pretend to arrive.  I have walked around many blocks in cities all over the world. I often tell myself that I spend too much time waiting… A real woman would arrive five minutes after the called time, hair blowing in the wind, slightly breathless, buttoning the last button on her silk shirt as she tries to scan one more time the fax sent from Brazil, the note her lover left her on the bathroom sink, or her most recent journalistic article on the secret interview she had with a Middle Eastern politician whose name I can't pronounce…. I've tried leaving my house much later for dates and meetings, but, even if I leave my house at what to me seems like a cliffhanger of a last moment, I end up waiting. I am not a capable last-minute diva; I'm a goody-goody.


Waiting seems to be a universal activity… I'm overwhelmed by how we wait and what we wait for. Bingo numbers, election returns, on line at the meat counter, waiting for Aunt Herta to stop talking, for the plane to become first in line so we can take off, for a prescription at the pharmacy, for a poop in the potty trainer, for letters of acceptance from college, waiting, grinding your teeth in a traffic jam, waiting for a person's name to surface as you stand there with them holding your frozen smile, waiting for a skirt to go on sale, for the weather to get cooler or warmer, for the number on the scale to go up or down, for the cute person to look at you, for the creep to leave you alone, for grades to be posted to see if you've passed, for the cold to go away, for gas to pass, for gas prices to go down, for vacation, graduation, for Friday at five, for midnight on New Year's Eve…


for the baby to be born, waiting to be born, waiting to see if you got the loan, waiting for your child to come home from a dance class, college, a date, waiting for a marriage proposal, for the right time to turn it down, for the check, for the change – financial or hormonal, for the right words, for the laughter you hoped to get, waiting to hear that a crime has been solved, for an apology, for the reluctant smile, for your state's lottery numbers to be yours, waiting to be caught, waiting to see if you'll be caught, waiting to surprise someone, to delight, to make furious, waiting to be old enough for this or that and waiting for justice, or at least revenge, recognition, waiting for calm, for sleep, for a good night's sleep with no dreams.


And as you can see the list goes on and on.  We are creatures that wait or try not to wait or who dare not to wait or who are willing or unwilling to wait.  We depend on time whether it's relayed on a digital watch, a stopwatch, a sundial, or acute inner timing.  It seems that there are times in life where waiting is the foremost preoccupation.  For instance, a dramatic time for waiting is when you are a female in adolescence.  I was in such a hurry to see proof of my womanhood.  I waited for breasts – would they ever fight themselves out of my flat chest?  I screened myself for the one hair under my arm or the first pubic hair.  I recently reread a fifth grade diary of mine where I was begging God to give me my period so I could be an adult (before my girlfriends, or at least not behind)…


As children we're taught to wait, count the days for holidays like Christmas or our own birthdays… In the U.S. we've invented enough holidays to keep shoppers in action all year long…. There are, however, pure moments worth the waiting.  A great concert that has been advertised all year on the radio turns out to be better than the CDs.  We smell rich chocolate coming from our kitchen and we know there are one-of-a-kind brownies waiting for us.  We stand at a door at the airport and are thrilled when we see the face of the person for whom we waited.  And we are newly in love by the time our lovers reach our doorstep.  In our minds we have already kissed, embraced them, rolled around with them, undressed them, applied fragrant oils…and whatever else.  When the real life person turns up at the door, he or she is everything we waited for...



To read the rest of the essay entitled 'Waiting," purchase "Waiting: Selected Nonfiction."